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  • Microsoft PixelSense Blog

    Tracking physical objects without tags


    A month or two ago we published the Tagged Objects for Surface 2.0 Whitepaper. It includes some best practices that will allow you to use tags to detect physical objects on the Microsoft Surface device.

    That said, there are some scenarios when you don’t need to identify a large number of objects. You just want to track an object or two, but you want to make sure that is really reliable.

    You could consider creating your own custom  tag format that is perhaps more forgiving (i.e. bigger dot sizes, redundancy bits of information, more spacing between the dots, etc.) – but this has two drawbacks:

    1. You would need to process the raw image yourself (which requires you to write some segmentation algorithms).
    2. Any computer vision algorithm that runs at frame rate is going to tax the performance of the system.

    Another much simpler way to do something similar is to lean on Microsoft Surface’s ability to track blobs and report the blob size. Microsoft Surface does the image processing for blob, finger and tag detection in hardware, so it happens much faster than any software based algorithm.

    In the video below I show how to create an object that has two reflective regions of different sizes. This allows me to compute the orientation and position of the object. I can calculate the orientation by taking the arctangent of the centers of the two blobs (hint: use atan2, not atan, since we want a full 360 degree orientation). In this case I calculate the center of the object, as the midpoint between the centers of the two blobs.

    For those interested, I have posted the code to


    Luis Cabrera

  • Microsoft PixelSense Blog

    Deep dive into the NUIverse


    When David Brown comes to town you know you're in for a treat. He is a recognized leader in Surface application design and development, going back to the early days of Microsoft Surface 1.0. His latest project "NUIverse," a whimsical play on words inviting people to explore the universe through natural user interface (NUI), is an amazing example of the kind of applications that can only be fully realized on the Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface.

    Last month David shared his time with us to demonstrate his NUIverse project, updated for the Microsoft Surface 2.0 platform. It's hard to convey in a blog video just how visually stunning this application looks, but even more amazing is how easy he makes it to control the complexity of the Solar System and night sky. Everytime we check-in with David the NUIverse gains new features and interaction refinements -- far too many to show at once. This application is a must have for any outer space enthusiast.

    Be sure to check out our video deep dive into the NUIverse on the Surface YouTube Channel. To learn more about NUIverse, and David Brown's past Surface projects, please checkout his blog at


  • Microsoft PixelSense Blog

    Calibrating Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft® Surface®


    I’m glad to see so many people excited to get their Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface (“SUR40”) units delivered. SUR40 is reaching customers in over 20 countries right now, and some of the unboxing videos, like this one, have been really fun to watch. I’ve also seen that a few people have questions about when to use the Calibration Tool found on the desktop. Hopefully I can help clarify those questions:

    Calibration instructions are available in the Microsoft Surface 2.0 Administration Guide (located here). One of the most important things to note is that you should always have a proper calibration board when calibrating.

    If you try to calibrate without the board, you’ll likely mess up your touch input. If you’re curious like me, your instinct might be to double-click the “Calibration Tool” icon located on the desktop just to see what it does. My recommendation is to leave it alone unless you already have your calibration board and you really need to recalibrate your unit.

    The best thing to do if you are experiencing any kind of touch performance issues with your unit is to first run the Environmental Light Optimizer tool (instructions here) and see if there are any light sources that may be causing issues. Samsung also provides a Venue Readiness Guide (found here) that has recommendations on optimal lighting which can also help.

    Some customers have noted receiving SUR40 units without calibration boards. The good thing is that most units won’t need to be re-calibrated for at least 1,000 hours; as they come calibrated from the factory. Customers that haven’t yet received calibration boards should be getting them from Samsung in the days ahead – well ahead of most customers ever needing them.



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